What Happens When I Pursue Business (How I actually cold call)

People say to me – a lot – that I’m a great cold caller.

That somehow I’m gifted at cold calling. I might be. I don’t think so. I think I just do it. Others don’t. I just chase, hunt, help, pursue.

I do it because it’s in their best interests to go with me.

They say it with astonished respect, but they don’t know how I operate. I am not a human boiler room.

40% of my work is done before I call anyone. Finding the right person that fits the right profile is it.

I’m willing to do what others won’t. Because of that, I’ve learned to then do what others can’t. This is the engine that drives things.

I don’t do it as much as people think I did. The Mike Ferry days are over for me- that pressure cooker style is ineffectual and stupid. What’s not stupid is the discipline and hustle it teaches.

Best case scenario – 95% of the time nothing great happens.

What happens when I cold call/initiate contact is about like this (and this isn’t quite scientific):

  • 30% of the time it goes nowhere. The contact is ignored, and noting really happens. Spitting into a trash can.
  • 15% of the time, I humiliate myself and send a ridiculous, irrelevant email that helps to train my people from using me, and my services.
  • 20% of the time I get a polite “no thanks,” or “not right now.”
  • 15% of the time, the person I contact isn’t right for our service, and the discovery process reveals that. This makes for some funny conversations “but…you called me, you must be desperate.”
  • 10% of the time we haggle and the deal doesn’t close. Sometimes we make lifelong friends here.
  • 5% of the time the deal closes.
  • 5% of the time we have a core lifelong customer/friend.
So…this means that 65% of the time there isn’t a great outcome. But…but…it only takes a little while. The 35% of the time, the fact that if I contact 200 people, I’m damn near guaranteed to make 10 friends…that’s what I’m focused on. I can’t help everyone, I can’t work with everyone. Trying is stuid

After this, everyone goes into my CRM. This is everyone I connect with. There are several activity templates set up:

  • Inbound/hot (for people that want us)
  • Interested (for people that may go to the next one)
  • Regular (this means that we connect about once a quarter)
Right now, it’s Batchbook, but when you fish around on this site, you’ll see a lot of stuff about a lot of CRMS. (I still maintain that in 2000, individual CRM peaked with Act 2000).

They have a variety of follow up sequences, and I’m testing if being brash/insulting works better than being pleading/begging. It seems that that’s the case, at least for me. I’ve sold a dozen or more videos by insulting their existing video. “I hope that your product has more care than whoever made that awful video.”

This isn’t the “nicest” way to do things, but it gains respect and demonstrates indifference. People that become our clients on this basis are also under control. When we approach someone with swagger, we inform them how their video will look. When they approach us, it changes the playing field just a little bit and oddly enough, it seems that we have less leverage.

Think about it this way: if you’re dating someone, do you want to pick, or do you want them to pick you? Then, what do you do to control the conversation?

There’s a continuum, but it seems that you get quicker dispensations with brash, and the percentages are about the same. Quicker is better because at least we know about it rapidly and don’t live in delusionland. (If we’re not ever really getting the business, it’s better knowing it.) Long term follow up works but not necessarily with any individual customer. I couldn’t predict that customer X would come back because I emailed a link. I also didn’t do it just to get their business, I did it because I add value.

Brash/unhinged seems to be a way to go. It keeps you from nurturing/chasing the business you weren’t getting anyway. With the CRM, every activity is just one more thing to do, nothing loaded or hard about it.

Ultimately, we have better luck with people I contact than with the folks that come over the transom on our /quote page. There are a lot of people that show up that aren’t yet our “right people” if you would. When I call people, I can create the information flow, and present to them in an intelligent way.

There is a long way to go to improve how we do things, you know? We are far from perfect right now, so we need to improve lots of little things about the way that our business works.

Running Results

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This is the same run.

Yes, I know that the split isn’t great, but it was sort of a last minute thing to “tack on” the extra 3.1 miles. I was planning to go 4 and set a record for my 5k time. (I’m just now getting back into running and into shape after a decade break. I can blame Bush for that, too.)

It’s astonishing to me that just 2 months ago – in mid/late December, I didn’t have the capacity to run a 11 minute mile. Legs, lungs and brain all didn’t work.

Longest run that I know of since at least 2004. Maybe longer. I feel pretty good today, I have that vague “runners high” that you get. I slept like the dead last night.

I still need music and a treadmill to run. I have crutches that will go away one by one. This blog is probably something of a crutch.

I’m turning in between 20-25 miles a week.

The first time I ran I felt horrible. Now, sometimes the first mile is rough (oddly, particularly when I take it too slowly).

Then I decided to add some more.  Wasn’t in the plan but for every day that I’ve talked myself out of a mile, I needed a day where I talked myself into one.

So, there’s that.


Freelancing? In a Service Business? Here’s What To Do First…

The first thing that you want to do is get to 50 paying customers as fast as you can.Yo

It doesn’t matter, really, what they are paying. A token wage, an insulting wage.  Whatever it is.  50 customers.  That’s the goal number one.  Everything else follows.  Get to 50 and you have a real business.  At almost any price point.

Why 50?  Partly because it’s a lot, and partly because it’s in site. The idea is that you’ll get good at the mechanics of making the sale. You’ll get insight into what people will want to pay for at something resembling scale.   You’ll probably need to approach 200-400 people to sell something 50 times.  You’ll get to refine your pitch.  You’ll actually have some money and some work.

For some of us it might take 3 months.  For others, a full year.  That’s the focus though, 50. That means that you have safety.  With 50 customers, you control your own destiny.

The beauty of 50 is that if you acquit yourself with aplomb half the time you’ll have the connections of 25 people – or more (some people that you treat poorly become your best referral sources, as odd as that seems).  You’ll probably have the connections of another couple dozen almost sales. 

 During the 50 customer hustle, you’ll say some ridiculous things.

You’ll make some mistakes. You’ll embarrass yourself.  You’ll look stupid.

All of these things will happen at least once.  Possibly more.  Probably more.  It’s OK.  The end of the tunnel means you have something substantive.

You’ll over reach, you’ll wear out one of your connections.  Someone will think you’re lame.  50 is a lot of people. Some of those 50 won’t like you.  If 4% hate you, that’s 2 people.  No president – ever – has had a 96% approval rating.

When you get your 50, you’ll be more or less in control of your fate.  You will probably have to change the way that you offer to do things. This is called a pivot.

This is what you focus on. This pays the bills.  A Business Plan will not. A Shiny Website might be needed to sell 50 times, but that is a tool to get to 50.  A brand strategy won’t be meaningful till your brand has encountered 50 people.

A lot of my entrepreneur friends install bottlenecks as a precondition to action.  ”I can’t possibly sell anything because my business card isn’t back yet,” or “I have to really plan out my brand strategy before I can sell anything.”  Nonsense.  To sell, you have to connect with people and sell.  Offer. Something. People. Want.  Start with a ridiculously low – no brainer – price.  Ratchet it up as you can.  It’s not that hard.

What’s hard is dealing with the success that comes from it.

Fixations

When you fixate on one client, it makes it less likely that you sell them, or anyone.  When I’ve believed that one client was going to be my meal ticket, the end-all, be all it’s rarely worked out that way. Instead, it becomes rougher than it should be.

Selling to an audience of one is tough, because eventually they pick up on the clues. If you want something, and are less than candid on it, you reveal things in the nonverbal communication. The lack of candor undermines the relationship.  Fixating on one client means that you lose power to them.

That’s why it’s better to be catholic about who you sell to.  Broadly speaking, there are dozens of people I’d be happy to work with.  Broadly speaking, I know that I’ll grow my business with or without any particular deal. I am getting the at bats.  I close one in 3.  (1/3 I reject, 1/3 I would like but don’t get, and 1/3 I would like.)

When we get fixated on people, it’s tougher.  The percentage doesn’t change much, but you lose dignity unless it’s done with earnestness and the verve and moxie of a romantic suitor.

Sunday Mornings

On Sunday Mornings, and even sometimes on Saturday Mornings, my dad would make pancakes. It was a nice treat, I got it just about every weekend, and when I realized it was the weekend, I would be excited in advance.  I’d usually wake up an hour or so before my parents did.  On Saturdays, I’d watch Superfriends or some tripe on TV, and then, eventually, Dad would come down.  On Sundays, the television fare for a child wasn’t particularly good, so I’d play with my Star Wars figures, or I’d wait.

Want pancakes, Chrisser?”  I was, at that time, never happy about being called Chrisser.  Rhymed with Pisser, a word I knew and used by the tender age of about 8.

I remember a couple of times feeling lottery-lucky when I got pancakes two days in a row.  He’d put applesauce in them sometimes, and Dad was contemptuous of the Bisquick recipe.   No, he did it himself.  Didn’t take any extra time, and you had pancakes with substance. I remember our house always felt cold in the mornings.  I had a brown robe, and some Empire Strikes Back PJs.  That would put me at 7 or 8.

Mom worked second shift. it seemed every other weekend.  I looked forward to the weekends when Mom didn’t work.  It usually meant that we’d get to go somewhere.  (When I was about 14, it seems that mom couldn’t spend enough time at work, but that’s the way it always is with 14 year olds).

Dad got up first. I remember watching Sunday Morning with Walter Chronkite.  It usually ended with something fairly reflective, footage of hummingbirds or streams or whatever.  I looked forward to that.  Sometimes Dad would put on Crossfire after, or at least that’s how I remember it.  Our black and white TV occupied a variety of positions in our kitchen.

I got pancakes one at a time, as they came off the skillet.  I didn’t need any butter, they were lightly fried with a tiny bit of butter.  Sometimes they’d be crispy on top and almost liquid in the center.  They always had more texture than what you get at Denny’s or just about any place other than iHop.

One morning, I was awake and Dad had cooked the first pancake.  He had a cast iron skillet.  That meant that the first one was always a crap-shoot, unless you were really sure that the skillet was hot.  He would often as not simply preemptively pitch it. I was aghast at that! It might be terrible, but even so, the waste of an almost good pancake was a travesty.

The pancake feast would linger on for a while, Dad would feed me a pancake, cook one for himself, and eat them until the batter was gone. I usually had a glass of milk and a glass of orange juice.

Towards the end of the Sunday routine, on days she worked, Mom would come down the stairs and make tea.  Until I was probably about 8, I wanted to sit in her lap at some point.  She’d have a Lenders bagel, or Rye Crisp with cracker barrel cheese.  She was always happy to see me.  There was a recurring struggle in our house.  Mom was convinced that, left to his own devices, Dad would take a really hot pan and immerse it in cold water, causing it to warp.  More than once, a reminder to let the pan cool would be met with a fairly testy “I know, I know,” or something like it.

One morning I remember waiting for my pancake.  I hoped that Dad would remember on his own to warm up the syrup.  Often he did, and that detail made me feel really happy and loved.  On days he didn’t, I was more disappointed than I should be.  I would sit in agony if he hadn’t started heating the syrup.  I wonder why it never occurred to me to ask….

If we live to be about 80, we only get 4,000 sundays in our lives.  As children between 3 and 13 we only get 500 or so.  It seems like a lot, but each day is precious. We won’t have another like it.   I worry that I’m not doing enough to make Ruby and Jack feel beloved.  I worry that I’m letting work, testiness and other things mount and get to us.

 

I Need You To Do This.

We’ve gotten a lot of leads from all over the place.  Often, a new contact comes to our site and starts a message with:

“We have a product that’s identical to _______, we need you to make a video that’s very similar by the end of next month.”

While I call everyone back, I’m always leery of dealing with this sort of person. They are signaling some sort of myopic selfishness.  A false urgency.  An unpleasantness and a demanding personality. I never give them price breaks, and I don’t make any concessions.  I’m happy to let them think I’m a bad salesperson that “blew an easy sale.”  That’s fine.

People that presume we’ll take everyone that works with us, that we’re so hungry that we’ll price compete generally waste my time. If we happen to close the sale- and it’s been this way for everything I’ve sold from mortgages to movies, it’ll be an antagonistic process.

Because, the truth is, life is short.  Dealing with an agonizing customer for $15,000 or whatever it winds up being isn’t worth it.  It’s not worth it to deal with assholes without having the upper hand.  It’s exhausting to have to always be on guard and it’s particularly tedious when your customers say things like “I bet you’re excited because you got to make a sale.”

Assuming that the person won’t want to do business with you is a better way to start. Even when it’s not right, the reflex reaction is “oh yes we will.”  You don’t feel bossed around by someone so you don’t react negatively. Being that “Type A” rarely gets you much.

The Tools I Use (That Don’t Matter)

These tools will probably pass away and be replaced by other things at some point. Nothing is religion.  But, I’ve done a fair amount of progress in my business and I’ve organized things to a selling system that I like.

Obviously, whenever possible, I make tools I like into Simplifilm customers, as I’ve done with RescueTime, Yesware, Clicky, and ScreenFlow.

Anyway, I have a sales system that I’m more or less happy with at the moment.  It’s certainly working now, and I can sell films and run the company in a more or less streamlined manner.  I’ll get into what I’m doing to do that at some point.

Here’s just a snapshot in time of what I’m using right now.  Remember: the Tools don’t matter.   Each of these adds 2-5% to my efficiency.  Nothing is life and death.

To run my life:

RecsueTime.Com.  I use this in fits and starts.  This week I’ve been sick, so my productivity goes to hell (think: playing Civilization V).

Before I Sell You:

GoogleReader:  I have a tuned set of alerts that help me find people.  I am enthusiastic at heart.  I love to ping people out of the blue.  I have some blogs I follow that are off-the-beaten-path with insight as to tech stuff.  I can go through this.

Search.Twitter.Com  I use a refined version of This Method, to help sell more stuff.  I’ve had some ways of getting better at doing that than I had been in the past so, there’s that for you.

Batchbook:  This is my CRM.  I’m more or less happy with it.  Nothing’s perfect, not even Batchbook.  However, there are events that it handles fairly well, and it’s better than anything that I’ve found (for me, at least).  It’s got some better capacities than I’ve used, but it helps me stay on track with lists of things that I might want to do.  I do the ones that I want.  (My to-do list is a suggestion list. Nothing more.  GTD is over.)

Yesware: Fabulousity. Our video is in production.  When I email you, I can know when you open it, if you forwarded it, if you clicked the links and more. It’s a mean and brutal tool.  What I’ve already done with it has been to call the people that were interested in engaging us.  I’m developing a library of sales and process messages.

Clicky: We’re gearing up to take over the world on the Internet.  Clicky is a big part of that.  We see how the customers get here, what they do and how often.  There’s a concept in marketing called a scent trail.  Beacons of competence at every place.

Screenflow: We like to make movies.  We use Screenflow to a fair amount, and we’ll be doing some more with it especially now that they are customers.

Google Docs: Frictionless collaboration FTW. We do our scripts on a yellow pad at first, andthen we move into google docs at some point.  I use a ton of “comments” and “notes” in my writing- there is often a way of saying something…we have to note what we don’t love.  I’m a mediocre writer but a great editor.  The form of the “Explainer” is suited for me.  150 words, and largely, it’s about editing.

 

The Urge To Brag

Nobody on planet earth knows what I’m up to.

Not my wife, my business partner or my mom.  Nobody. I don’t dwell on it much because I already know I’ve wasted years of my life on some sort of delusional mania.  I’ve got an epic amount of balls in play right now, and soon, the harvest starts.

I’ve told people bits and pieces. People that have inspired me to do more ought hear that they are having an impact. It’s for their benefit, not mine, to sustain and fortify them to make them know that their work has a purpose.  One of the things that sustained me when I was struggling harder was the people that wrote me to say “thanks, man.”

:::

Restraining myself against the urge to brag, the urge to write incessant mission statements, the urge to make everything into a weight and measure  has meant something tangible: I’ve accomplished more in 18 months than I have over the last 10 years.   I’ve gotten to be more useful to others.

I can’t say exactly how, how often. I  still feel like I probably brag too much, relative to what I’ve done, and I look towards the time where I can just exist without having to exchange facts for approbation.

After a time, it’s kind of fun having secret plans, secret ideas, and hidden objectives.  You feel like you know a little more than others, and the tension behind keeping a secret is a fun way to live your life.

Negotiations

Mark Suster writes a great article on negotiations.

He haggles for a living, and there’s no doubt he’s better than I am. I represent myself at the level of conscious incompetence.

One of the things that he doesn’t (yet)  get into, not really, is the iterated game. You fight this battle to make the next one go more smoothly. He says:

In face, your goal in a negotiation is not always to get the lowest possible terms. Your goal is to understand the needs of your partner and create win/win outcomes where both sides are incentivized to continue to want to work hard together – now and into the future.

Here’s the deal. A lot of times people I negotiate with have a reflex aggression that doesn’t help them.  They’ll fight for terms that they don’t need and conditions that actually disincentivize deals from getting done.

This is not a surprise. We have to get things done despite man made obstacles.

I negotiate with legal departments all the time. They get involved in profoundly dumb ways.  Simplifilm pursues course towards big and small companies.  We’ve pursued multivideo deals worth, often, tens of thousands of dollars, and hundreds of man hours of work.

We’ll often come to terms with the person needing the work, and legal will push back on some type of material point.  It has occasionally absurd.  Everything from net 60 pay days (which would hurt us majorly), to who gets to choose the voice talent (seriously, legal has said that they get to pick from a minimum of 40 choices).

At a certain point, we push back.  Even when we can live with the points. Demonstrating indifference – in a respectful and cheerful way-  is how you create long term clients.

Now, it seems like an ego trip. FAR from it.  Having us be a peer and not a lackey means that the tension that comes from the back and forth yields a superior product. That’s what the client wants.

Being willing to walk means:

  • We get respect.
  • The client gets better work.
  • We don’t go through mutual agony or client-side tantrums.
  • The client rehires us
  • We’re peers, not serfs.

Having respect is only possible when you negotiate with vigor and good cheer.

When a client gets the idea(delusion) that we’re financially in need of this deal…holy hell, will the number of revisions double or triple.  When the client feels like they are lucky we made time for them, they respect our ideas for the video, and it closes smoothly. For them, and for us.

“What do you think about this idea” is a more respectfil starting point than “we need you to do this for us.”

I was willing to kill what was the second biggest deal we had done over a minor point. Client wanted X’d out “mutual approval” on script and said “All scripts to be provided by client with no revisions by Simplifilm.”  This was tens of thousands. It came at a time where we felt that losing this would set our momentum back.  You can’t make a great video with a bad script.  We needed to have mutual approval.

We were willing to walk, and in a way that can’t be faked. I sent a letter – and I’m paraphrasing:

Dear _______.

Thanks for getting this far.  I hope to be able to work with you on these videos, but we won’t be able to go forward if we can’t have input and approval on the script.  I would like to know in the next 2 days if this will happen or not.  If that’s a sticking point for you, it is for us too, for reasons you can understand.

Mutual approval means that we’re both happy with the script.  It could be that your script is fine as is, or it could be that you’re walking into a minefield.

Let me know, and if this particular gig isn’t a fit, we’ll be happy to consider whatever you needs the future.”

We got the deal, and everything went swimmingly. They referred us more in the future.

That was for everyone’s benefit.

Projects

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I’ve been procrastinating several projects.  At the company, I’ve been meaning to put some features in my website for a while.  We have about a 60% done site, from my perspective.  The site framework looks good, and at this point it’s more or less a content and copywriting problem.

A little box like this after posts can go a long way to making things look better.

I’ve also been procrastinating on writing our sales letter.  There’s a garbage and indifferent place holder in there. It signals that we’re kind of arrogant (we are, we’ve earned it) but nothing else.

Right now, our sales letter is arrogant, yet not persuasive.  We are busy as hell, so it’s not like it matters now, but we have to fix that eventually, and we have to build a company that owns the details.  We can’t really grow without a steady stream of great leads, but we’re too busy to follow up on the leads we have.

Today, I should make headway on a lot of our marketing stuff.  I’ve been using a yellow pad to write headlines a few at a time over the last couple of months, and so I have some sense of what I can say, and I can construct a good sales letter in just a few hours.  I wasn’t ready before with a congruent plan to make a scent trail from beginning to end.

The goals.

Right now, we’re getting some  great traffic.  About 20% of it goes to our work page, and about 1/3 of that goes to the “quote” page.  About 5% of what’s left  (0.3% of all traffic) completes the request for info.  So at each link in my chain, I lose too many.   I think it should look like 30% work, 30% of that goes to quote, and 10% of what’s left completes the action.  That’d put us at 1% of traffic becoming a lead, and we could then get an AE to do this.

Right now, all of our traffic is organic.  We’re probably going to add a small amount of PPC.

First, I realized today that virtually all of our traffic is going to come from one of three places:

  • Competitors snooping and my own social media contacts.
  • People actively looking to buy.  (We get 100+ hits on superlatively targeted searches- pricing for ________)
  • People looking to know how to DIY a movie.

This is gleaned from Clicky.

Right now, “more traffic” is a goal I could focus on but it’s not going to do me nearly as much good as increasing the power of the scent trail and fixing my site.  More traffic is something I could buy, but this is going to take 8-10 hours of work today.

That’s why I take Friday Afternoonss off and work on Saturdays.  I get a ton done.

I’ll probably post on this a few times today.

It’ll start out with placeholder content and I’ll move it to “the real thing.”

In order:

  • Create featured box that goes under posts.
  • Create sidebar image that suggests people get a quote or see the work.
  • Improve the /work page
  • Improve the /quote page.
  • Write 1100 word front page sales letter.
  • Put work on our sidebars.
  • Put testimonials on our sidebars.
  • Consider what we really want on those three pages.

I realize know that people that are coming to our site are already sold on getting a demo movie.  By and large, they are getting quotes.

I’m going to guess that the traffic is like this:

  • 1/3 can’t afford us and are looking for a $2500 solution or to DIY it.
  • 1/3 can afford us but were planning on paying $5-8k.
  • 1/3 can afford us and are comparing us to our competition.

Focusing on the 66% of the people that I can help is the way to go.

Off to the grind.

Things I No Longer Understand: Lessons From Apple

There are lots of things I don’t understand.

I was not in the amazing business.  I was a Toshiba computer that you buy from Best Buy.  Nobody is emotionally connected to that, there’s no magic involved.

First – how can you sustain being mediocre?  How can you live in a way where you’re currently in a mediocre business that’s measurement is units, not “Awesomes?”

How can you be in a business that’s not shooting to be the best in its market? I can see a local Realtor wanting to be the best in a tightly defined market (their contacts, their rotary club).

How can you not realize that every job that exists today is 3 years from complete obsolescence?

How can you make something that’s just OK? Intentionally? 

If you’re not in pursuit of being the best on the planet, to transcend your limitations and push for something more, the cognitive dissonance will wreck you.  You’ll burn out, you’ll have testy discussions and you’ll wreck yourself.  Pursuing excellence is exciting.

The Tools Don’t Matter

I used to blog a lot about tools and tricks.

I was so clever. I knew everything about various CRMS. I talked about sales techniques.  Till I bored myself.

Oh, I was smart.

Here’s the thing: the tools don’t matter.  As a salesperson you need about 3 things:

  • A place to find people to connect with them.  Could be the Rotary Club, Twitter, a forum, or conferences.  Could be your blog.  Could be some combination of these things.
  • A pitch to get in front of them.
  • A system for checking in and adding value.  This could be index cards, 43 Folders, a CRM.

That’s it. Everything else can more or less take care of itself.  You don’t need to spend time optimizing this stuff, you need to spend time executing.    People want to spend time optimizing nothing.

The art of the hustle is the important thing.  Focus on timing. Focus on adding value – in a real way.  It’s hard to do.  I want to talk to people daily but I have nothing to give.

Confessions of a New Media Hustler, Part II WordPress, Thesis and Mutant Clients

thesis-theme-300x250

[Note: This is part 2 of a planned 4 part series on my move, etc. confessions <--for more.]

I didn’t want to sell infoproducts. Lame, usually.  Sometimes worse.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t good stuff out there. A precious few are worth it.

99.5%, at minimum are a waste of money.

Because I said it before: you either can’t be stopped or can’t be helped.

I didn’t have the stomach or heart for it.  I coasted in school, and I didn’t believe that I had the knowledge to impart on people (however, I’m wickedly efficient at producing a mediocre result with next to no effort).

I didn’t want to coach, because telling grown up Realtors “this is Facebook,” couldn’t possibly have a shelf life.  That was beyond obvious, and we didn’t need an Extra Normal to tell us that.

So, when Chris Pearson dropped Thesis it was like a godsend.  I could get a talented designer to whip up a few nice ways of doing things.  I was able to make make some modifications to their photoshop files, and sell websites.

Thesis was a fantastic start, a framework and a community in one package. You had a ton of options for typography, column widths and the rest of it.  For 2008 or 2009 when it dropped, it was spectacularly good.

One of the best things was that Thesis respected designers.  That means that clients could make changes but it was hard to break it.

The road had been paved before me. Infomarketers, the National Association of Realtors and Business week pitched people on blogging.  Everyone – from a plumber to a lawyer wanted a blog.

My work was done, more or less.  IT was easy to close people.  Active Rain had gathered them up and made it easy enough to find new folks.  It even published their phone numbers.

I made this video, put it on a page. Wrote/distributed some inflammatory posts.

The sales part. “$800 gets you a  custom WordPress site and a year’s worth of hosting”.

Most people understood. It wasn’t an unlimited everything site, but it was functional and useful.  I supplemented it with training calls that were basically a way to consolidate support requests.  I learned a little, and I helped some people.

Largely, though I was indifferent to my clients, late paying my vendors and about 3 beats behind.  I kept things afloat through hustle, but I had the Groupon problem ((1)).

I’m telling you this because it’s a fact. I’m not beating myself up or feeling any particular bad way.

I’m telling you this because I believe this: when someone has made a living or a business, it’s a duty to only do your best for them.  There may be times when your best isn’t good enough.  But not doing your best is not the option.

I sold a lot of these sites because others had stoked demand.  I was riding a wave I saw coming, and I was one of the first with my surfboard.  Via Tim, I had some clients that were always ready to buy.  And, I’m a hustler, and I’m good at doing novel things to get customers.

Here’s the problem.  I alluded to it in the last post.

Nice People Don’t All Have To Blog

Remember: 2007-2009 were tough years. The economy, the whole of it was different then.  People had expectations that each year would be a little nicer than the one before it.

People either can’t be stopped, or they won’t be helped.

There’s not a ton of middle ground.  I had, largely, the people in the latter category.  Well meaning, earnest people with rotary club businesses.  Friendly people that cared about helping.  People that were just hayseed hicks that didn’t know any better.

They had no business blogging.  Not because they weren’t great people, but because they had nothing to say. They wouldn’t do the work that it took to create original thought or commentary on their industries.  They’d follow instructions, and regurgitate nonsense in a step-by-step manner.

They didn’t gravitate towards connecting online.

My dad was a community college comp teacher.  Somehow, without meaning to, I made myself into one.  I was editing crap posts about crap businesses.  Indeed it was a great time to buy – or sell- a home.  Or to plan your 401k.  Or whatever.

I had a couple hundred sales made, and they were all writing obvious crap.

I didn’t want to do the Derek Halpern style teaching, nor did I want to spend the time to execute on that level.

So, I did the best I could and was profoundly lucky that my clients were mostly nice people.

Your Blog Will Not Fix Adult Failure Spiral

Most of them. A few people – were in a bad spot.  Problems come with being in a bad spot.

A lot of my clients – because of my price point – were at the end of their rope.  They scrounged $800 of blood money, of next month’s light bill to pay me.

The blog was to be a hail mary.  People believed that with just a few hours of work one time, they’d have an eruption of prestige and traffic.  Arbitrage.  That off the shelf products would yield prestige and more.

They were failing because the had become addicts, th ey had caused problems for themselves((2)).  A blog wasn’t going to fix it. Nor was any type of info-marketing tool. They believed themselves to have been victims of cruel fate.  Nothing could help.

There is not a single trick, hack or kludge.   There is no magic bullet.

They weren’t appropriate customers.  But, who was I to blow against the wind?  I started seeing the signals and giving people stronger and stronger warnings.  That didn’t help my sales efforts.

I was in a deeply flawed business- that’s a fact, and I didn’t want to do what it took to fix it. I didn’t have the patience.  At the core of my being, I’m a hunter. I can’t chain myself to a desk and force myself to be something I’m not.

I started preemptively refunding people that were a teensy bit testy.  That didn’t help.

I wasn’t good enough to get to serve higher end companies, and it is way harder to claw out $800 at a time – when only $300 or so was profit – than it was to do it in another way.

I was not going to – ever – fix the world or have the business.  Mediocrity is contagion, and I was broke and scared most of the time.  I couldn’t see past the next morphine hit to figure out what to do next.

.:.

There are lots of things I don’t understand.

I was not in the amazing business.  I was a Toshiba computer that you buy from Best Buy.  Nobody is emotionally connected to that, there’s no magic involved.

First – how can you sustain being mediocre?  How can you live in a way where you’re currently in a mediocre business that’s measurement is units, not “Awesomes?”

How can you be in a business that’s not shooting to be the best in its market? I can see a local Realtor wanting to be the best in a tightly defined market (their contacts, their rotary club).

How can you not realize that every job that exists today is 3 years from complete obsolescence?

How can you make something that’s just OK? Intentionally? 

If you’re not in pursuit of being the best on the planet, to transcend your limitations and push for something more, the cognitive dissonance will wreck you.  You’ll burn out, you’ll have testy discussions and you’ll wreck yourself.  Pursuing excellence is exciting.

 (as a complete aside: man, do, I love typing on the apple full sized keyboard.)

((1)) The groupon problem is where you have to sell the future to pay for the past and you’re always a beat behind and doing volume without profitable.  Read here for details.

((2)) Money Drunk, Money Sober by Julia Cameron is a fantastic book for this issue.